The Grand Bargain is a Grand Giveaway
by Jon Lisbin
The Seattle City Council is considering massive upzones in the University District as the first implementation of it's "Inclusionary Housing" strategies throughout the city.
Truth is, if I was Mayor, I may have taken the same approach. Put together a panel of experts and stakeholders to come up with strategies to address Seattle’s affordable housing crisis. Unfortunately, that’s where intelligence ended and corruption began. The composition of HALA (Housing and Livability Agenda) Committee was heavily weighted toward developers and their interests. The resulting skewed report was biased towards special interests.
I know, at this point you are saying “another conspiracy theorist”. However, the facts behind my assertion are quite compelling. Maybe I can speak in a language city officials are familiar with?
I know the train has left the station. I know it would take true courage to stop it now. I ask that our city leaders have that courage!
* Seattle's current plan calls for 3 - 8% Set Asides, significantly below other major cities, but not set yet.
Public Comment at City of Seattle Hearing re: Proposed Upzone of the University District
by Linda Nash and Jim Hanford
2016 will be the hottest year on record. Atmospheric carbon levels are now higher than they have been in 4 million years. Seattle has admirably made the commitment to carbon neutrality by the year 2050. Locating new housing and businesses near transportation is an important step. But that alone is not enough. One-third of Seattle’s energy use comes from buildings.
In order to achieve carbon neutrality while continuing to grow, the City will have to transition the vast majority of its building stock away from the consumption of electricity and fossil fuels. Yet high-rise construction, as proposed here, is a high-carbon option. Seattle’s own data show that high-rise multi-family buildings currently consume 45% more energy per square foot than mid-rise multi-family and 64% more than low-rise multi-family. In the case of tall buildings, the emphasis on small efficiency improvements and “LEED” certification merely serves to make wasteful construction slightly less unsustainable.
There are significant obstacles to making tall buildings energy and carbon efficient: they require more elevators and air-conditioning; they have more exposure to wind and sun and have higher rates of heat gain and loss; they have a small roof-top area limits the potential to use solar and other renewables. To make matters worse, tall buildings exacerbate the effects of very high temperature days (which we are now experiencing in the summer) by raising surrounding air temperatures and decreasing air flow between buildings. Their long shadows also limit the potential for solar energy on adjacent sites. If Seattle truly wants to mitigate climate change, it will need to prioritize energy considerations in zoning and the design of buildings.
Modern, tower-dominated downtowns emerged in an era of cheap and abundant fossil fuels, and they do not obviously serve the needs of the twenty-first century. Buildings last for many decades and will shape the city’s design and energy needs far into the future. We can’t afford not to get it right.
Read more by Jim Hanford: High-rises are energy hogs, not climate solutions
by Shirley Nixon
Attached is a map for the U District rezone showing areas to be upzoned under the new ordinance. Dozens of MR and NC blocks zoom from a max of 65’ to 240’ or 320’. All of the rezone is north and west of the UW Campus “Institutional Overlay Zone”.
As if this increase in density (without concurrent infrastructure improvements) isn’t bad enough, a few weeks ago the UW released its draft Campus Master Plan that calls for adding – in the next ten years – 3 million net gsf of new space and 22 buildings on its West Campus alone; and 12 million net gsf campus-wide.
The U District simply cannot accommodate all of this new growth and retain affordable existing housing and livable neighborhoods. Special interests and the UW have been steadily working toward this skyscraper rezone of the U District and campus expansion for many years: long before the HALA Grand Bargain idea ever came to be. They now try to miscast opponents of this exponentially out-of-scale upzone as opponents of affordable housing. Not true. Not even close.
The Root Problem
by Lisa Parriott
It all started with us trying to save our magnificent Silent Giant, a vibrant 100 foot ponderosa pine that reaches straight up to the sky…
George, our elderly neighbor, had told us for years that he would never sell his property to a developer; he loved his big beautiful pine tree and he never wanted it cut down. But in the end, he did sell his home to a developer. The day after his property hit the market last winter, he was offered $30,000 over the asking price; all he had to do was agree to the terms before the offer expired on Saturday – the day before Sunday’s open house. Acceptance meant he would receive a lump sum of $505,000, cash, a month before Christmas.
We do not believe George knew that the purchaser was a developer. Nor do we believe George knew that he had side yard that could be potentially split into a second lot (~3,100sf ) and developed. The price he was paid certainly did not reflect that.
Speak Up Regarding MHA Impacts!
From the Wallingford Community Council
Increased density and zoning changes are proposed in Seattle's urban villages under the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) framework. The City has determined that MHA will have a significant adverse impact on the environment, and therefore the City is required to complete an environmental impact statement (EIS). The EIS will consider potential impacts associated with land use, housing and socioeconomics, public services, transportation, utilities, open space and recreation, aesthetics and height/bulk/scale, and historic resources.
The City government needs to hear from you now regarding the impacts of the proposed zoning changes! Development without concurrent mitigation benefits no one, regardless of whether one resides inside or outside of an urban village, in an apartment, a condominium, or a house.
Comments are now being accepted on the scope of the EIS. You may comment on alternatives, mitigation measures, probable significant adverse impacts, and licenses or other approvals that may be required. Consider incorporating the concerns described below, and send your comments by 5:00 PM on September 9, 2016.
Please continue to read...
City, having blown its chance for affordable units in apartment boom, is now deflecting blame
By: Jon Lisbin
Re: Danny Westneat's Seattle Times Article:
Yes, the city has already blown it's chance. Truth is, like the stock market, trying to time the housing market is a losing game. The city needs a steady consistent growth strategy, one that involves the community and builds into it factors that maintain livability and minimizes displacement. What we're seeing is reactionary and will bite us in the end. Yes, that end.
That's why I believe an effective inclusionary zoning plan makes sense in theory. The current MHA-R proposal however needs major improvements such as increased contribution from developers, incentives for building on site, 1 on 1 replacement of affordable housing, impact fees etc. If you have a moment, please sign Seattle Fair Growth’s petition for managed growth.
Martin Kaplan nails it! Don't allow bureaucrats to stifle citizen engagement, and ram top down policies down our throats, while degrading the city we love! Read the op ed
"There is not a war between urbanists and neighborhoods, only a rising storm from thousands of Seattleites who love their city, but very much dislike Murray’s and O’Brien’s new ideological foundation behind one-size-fits-all zoning, top-down proclamations that ignore public input, and a forced march toward controversial policies with little if any background study, with no reliable metrics and data, and without a serious and citywide commitment to listen to neighborhoods and invite their unbiased input."
by Susanna Lin
There has been a lot of discussion about HALA, but a far broader change to Seattle land use policy is coming up in the form of a new version of the Comprehensive Plan. The City is required to draft a Comprehensive Plan which acts as a roadmap for urban planning over a 20 year period. We have reached the end of that 20 year period for our first Comprehensive Plan, so Mayor Ed Murray has undertaken to write another one, which will be the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan. The Mayor’s office has released the final draft, and a public hearing was held on the Comprehensive Plan on June 27th at 6:00 PM at City Hall.
Which tree is better for the environment?
The Comprehensive Plan is a massive document. It is 575 pages and its details could never be covered in one blog post. You may read through it here, or if you prefer there is a hard copy at the Wallingford Public Library.
The Comprehensive Plan includes a set of Neighborhood Plans. According to people involved in the initial drafting 20 years ago, it was a four year operation in which residents were really given a chance to shape the policy and it included an extensive vetting process with neighborhoods. It served as a lovely example of true neighborhood engagement.
The Neighborhood Plan lays out a fairly specific vision of how and where development should occur within the neighborhood, and the Comprehensive Plan made a binding commitment to that vision. In particular, areas zoned Single Family Residential could be upzoned (for example to Multifamily Residential) only where the Neighborhood Plan provides for it.
Susanna in Seattle gets the point!
So according to the Seattle 2035 Development Capacity Report, "Based on current zoning, DPD estimates that the city has development capacity to add about 224,000 housing units." According to the HALA website, Mayor Murray wants to add 50,000 housing units in the next 10 years. So there's plenty of capacity with current zoning to meet that goal, right?